Renewable energy use can look like a no-brainer for sunny, windy island nations that face high conventional power prices, but the reality of renewable installations can be fraught with challenges linked to the small size of such power systems and barriers involved with linking them to the power grid. The government of the Virgin Islands this week took steps to tackle some of those issues with the passage of a new Feed-In Tariff Act designed to encourage the construction of small to midsize renewable energy installations that would integrate with its diesel-based electric infrastructure.
When the Obama administration seeded smart grid and advanced meter deployments in 2009 with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, proponents hoped the meters would be linked with new “time of use” electricity rates and household displays that would dramatically demonstrate the high wholesale cost of peak, midday power, prompting customers to conserve electricity at those times.
One House Democrat yesterday floated draft legislation that would allow states to implement a carbon tax to comply with U.S. EPA’s forthcoming rule for existing power plant CO2. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) proposed giving states the option of implementing a state-level excise tax on the greenhouse gas emissions from regulated existing generation as a means of satisfying the rule EPA will propose next month under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. He is soliciting feedback on his draft.
Ohio could become the first state to soften standards for utilities’ energy efficiency and renewable energy use if a fast-tracked bill passes the House this week as expected. The state’s Senate Bill 310 would repeal requirements for power providers to source half their renewable energy in-state and would freeze annual increases in alternative energy integration for two years.
On the heels of an executive order that jump-starts efforts to address climate change, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signaled he is willing to take further executive action to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. Appearing on a recent Seattle-based television show, Inslee said he is willing to use executive authority to implement a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). The program would mandate that fuel producers reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel mix over time to clean up the transportation sector, which accounts for roughly 44 percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions. “It is clear that it is both my role and my responsibility to act where legislators fail, and there’s been so far an abject failure to do any action to really deal with carbon pollution,” he said.
Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and head of U.S. EPA under President George W. Bush, and Bob Inglis, former congressman from South Carolina, said they see the politics of climate change beginning to shift. “The two things that really drive Republicans are fiscal growth, economic growth and national security,” Whitman said at the Fortune Brainstorm Green Conference, a gathering of businesses, environmentalists and state and federal officials. “Climate change runs smack headlong into both of those.”
Norman Bay, President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, faced sharp criticism today from Republicans on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee bristling over enforcement complaints. But Bay also appeared to have found critical allies on the panel of 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked Bay, a former New Mexico prosecutor, to address recent criticism that FERC’s Office of Enforcement — which Bay has led since 2009 — has handed out excessive fines.
The Obama administration’s nominee to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission faced congressional scrutiny on Tuesday for his role in the commission’s push to hold Wall Street firms and traders accountable for alleged manipulation of electricity prices. As FERC’s enforcement director, Norman Bay worked with former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff to put more muscle in the commission’s enforcement program, seeking substantial fines from financial firms such as J.P. Morgan Chase and Barclays
President Obama himself plans to roll out his administration’s proposal next month for curbing greenhouse gases from existing power plants, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said today. The EPA chief confirmed in a Google+ hangout on the president’s climate agenda that Obama “indicated his intent” to announce the proposal himself — something that she said showed his commitment to it. Greens say some direct involvement from the president would guarantee the proposal gets the attention it needs to win public support and counter opposition messaging by industry groups that the rules will drive up energy costs and damage grid reliability.
“Wind has been doing great and has been a huge success story for Texas, and solar is the new huge success story that’s underway in Texas,” said Karen Hadden of the Texas-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “We’re going to see more and more of it, and the two work together beautifully.”